99876 - Environmental Sustainability of Agricultural Systems

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Moduli: Federica Zanetti (Modulo Mod 1) Giovanni Dinelli (Modulo Mod 2)
  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures (Modulo Mod 1) Traditional lectures (Modulo Mod 2)
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Agricultural Sciences and Technologies (cod. 9235)

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course, the student possesses knowledge of the main characteristics of sustainable agronomic systems and the main operational strategies for their appropriate management. In particular, the student possesses the skills to plan and manage cultivation plans of arable crops, evaluating their productive performance and their relative impact on the environment; recognising and correcting anomalies in productive performance related to plant-climate-soil interaction.

Course contents

MODULE 1 (Prof. Giovanni Dinelli)

Theoretical teaching unit content

The theoretical teaching unit is organized into two sections.

The first section (20 hours) deals with outlining the main feature of sustainable agricultural systems, with particular reference to organic farming. The main purpose is to introduce some basic concepts related to agroecology and to use these to better understand the complex relationships existing between agronomy and sustainable crop production systems. In particular, the different types of sustainable agriculture systems and their main characteristics will be defined. Examples of distinctive, as well as common characteristics, of these systems in comparison to conventional production systems, respectively, will also then be highlighted.

The main topics covered during the development of the first section of the theoretical teaching unit include:

1) The different types of agricultural systems and their classification;

2) The different types of low-input agricultural systems;

3) Agroecology and plant production;

4) Management of organic matter and fertility;

5) Low-impact soil tillage;

6) Planned biodiversity: crop rotation;

7) Structural biodiversity: ecological infrastructures and their functional roles;

8) Defense techniques with natural compounds;

9) Low-impact weed control.

In the second part of the course (10 h) examples of application of the principles of sustainability will be illustrated, deepening practical aspects related to research projects, pilot projects and/or organic and/or certified production chains..

MODULE 2 (Prof. Federica Zanetti)

Introduction to the contents of module 2 "Sustainable crop intensification systems" (2h)

General principles for the setting-up of intensified and sustainable cropping systems: species selection criteria (4h); efficient use of natural resources (water, soil, nutrients) (6h)

Definitions of inter-cropping, relay-cropping, cash-, cover-crops: examples (8h)

Agro-environmental effects of intensified cropping systems (4h)

Field visits and supplementary seminar lessons on case studies and/or pilot projects (6 h)


MODULE 1 (Prof. Giovanni Dinelli)

To prepare for the exam, students must use the material distributed by the lecturer, which is made available online at the end of the lessons in the form of a handout, as well as any notes taken in class. For any further information and clarification, the following texts are suggested:

Miguel Altieri- Agroecologia: Una via percorribile per un pianeta in crisi - editore: Edagricole-New Business Media 2015

Allen V. Barker, Science and Technology of Organic Farming (2nd Edition), CRC Press

MODULE 2 (Prof. Federica Zanetti)

To prepare for the exam, students must use the material distributed by the teacher, which will include slides and lecture notes, as well as additional scientific articles on the lecture contents

Teaching methods

MODULE 1 (Prof. Giovanni Dinelli)

The theoretical modules consist of lectures accompanied by class discussions involving the students, in order to provide training in the concepts of low-impact agriculture, applied agroecology, and agronomy of arable agricultural productions. The practical activities consist of visits to farming enterprises, for a total of 2 visits of 2.5 hours, aimed at providing a practical viewpoint of concepts presented in the classroom lessons.

MODULE 2 (Prof. Federica Zanetti)

Theoretical lessons will take place in the classroom in a frontal manner

Assessment methods

MODULE 1 (Prof. Giovanni Dinelli)

The teaching forms part of the Integrated Course “LOW IMPACT FARMING (65943)”. Therefore, the evaluation of the integrated course jointly takes into account the level of knowledge and skills acquired by the student in relation to all of the teaching content.

Verification of learning takes place only through the final exam, which ascertains the acquisition of the expected knowledge and skills. The knowledge and skills imparted by this course are assessed through a written exam lasting 2 hours, without the assistence of notes or books, and is not followed by an oral test. The test includes only open answers, for a total of 12 questions.

MODULE 2 (Prof. Federica Zanetti)

The verification of learning takes place only through the final exam which will be written in open questions lasting 1 hour, without the aid of notes or books, and is not followed by an oral exam.

Teaching tools

PC, Video projector, interactive communication systems (Wooclap, Menitmeter), laboratories, experimental fields

Office hours

See the website of Giovanni Dinelli

See the website of Federica Zanetti


Good health and well-being Responsible consumption and production Climate Action

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.